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Eviction looms for Koh Pich islanders

Eviction looms for Koh Pich islanders

A Phnom Penh municipal court judge is expected to issue an injunction order against

residents of Koh Pich ordering them off the disputed island, said lawyers from both

sides.

A November 3 hearing between City Hall lawyers and Koh Pich residents and their lawyers

broke down after judge Kim Ravy refused to move out of his small office to the courtroom,

said Phoum Bunphann, one of the lawyers representing the 20 residents still contesting

the eviction.

The residents and their lawyers wanted to move to the larger space so all parties

could be accommodated, Bunphann said.

When this was denied, the residents and their lawyers decided to walk out of the

hearing

Kim Ravy told the Post by phone on November 3 that he convened the hearing on the

Koh Pich case and confirmed the walkout.

"However, the hearing went as usual," Ravy said.

He would not give details on the contents of the injunction order, saying only: "You

will see after it's handed to the citizens."

Since December 2004, a legal battle has raged over the amount of compensation the

municipality should pay residents in exchange for their fertile land. Development

company 7NG wants to turn Koh Pich into a satellite city just off the bank the Tonle

Bassac.

Neither City Hall nor lawyers for the residents had seen the injunction document,

but both legal teams told the Post they believed the intention was to evict the residents.

"Now [we] just wait for the judge to sign the injunction order and get a copy,"

said Soung Chanthan, a lawyer representing City Hall.

" I do not know for sure whether the municipality would pay the compensation

to residents or not during the eviction," Chanthan said.

Brian Rohan, an adviser to the residents' legal team, said the court has no jurisdiction

over disputes where land titles were not involved and said his clients have strong

cases under the Land Law.

Rohan also noted a Supreme Court directive that injunction orders should not affect

property.

"It's very, very clear and the decision is very clearly wrong," he said.

Chum Sameourn, one of the Koh Pich residents, remained determined to fight on.

"If we go with no money, we would die, so we have to struggle to live on the

island," Sameourn said.

Residents were preparing to petition Prime Minister Hun Sen and would file a complaint

to the Supreme Council of Magistracy over the decision, lawyers for the residents

said.

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